Volume V, No. 1, Fall 1977
by Vickie Massey Photography by Ruth Massey
We met the Campbells while the Joplin TV station, KODE, was filming a documentary on BITTERSWEET. The producer wanted to use a segment on cooking on a wood cook stove, but the one we used for our story in Vol. I, No. 4 had been sold when Sylvia Gunter moved to an apartment. When Kyra Gibson suggested her great aunt Goldie Campbell, who still does all of her cooking on a wood stove, it sounded perfect. So off we went with camera, film and big appetites for dinner.
Don Campbell met us at the drive and walked with us to the house putting us at ease quickly. Since we were going for the mid-day meal, Goldie Campbell had already started the beef roast so it would have time to cook. Delicious smells greeted us at the door and made us hungry even though it was two hours until dinner.
During our short tour of the farm, we were impressed by the healthy well-kept garden, especially
when Mrs. Campbell told us all of the water they use comes from a hand drawn well. They had
planted squash, potatoes, tomatoes, several kinds of beans and peas, and two kinds of corn,
Hickory King for hominy and sweet corn for eating off the cob. The heads of cabbage were huge,
almost ready to be made into sauerkraut. The Campbells' pride in their farm was evident
everywhere by the order and neatness. Even as we walked through the garden, Mrs. Campbell
couldn't help but stop to wrap a climbing green bean vine.
Most people couldn't go a week without running to the grocery store, but if all the stores would close, the Campbells could continue eating normally for several months. They dress their own beef and poultry and smoke their pork with hickory and sassafras. Mrs. Campbell cans or freezes all the fruit and vegetables they need for the year. The cellar, already stocked with corn, green beans, peas, pickles, hominy, tomatoes and tomato juice, canned fruits, jams and jellies of all kinds, and even home rendered lard, would by fall be even more crowded with the results of Mrs. Campbell's late garden.
Their self-sufficiency became even clearer when Mrs. Campbell told us, "I haven't bought over five or six loaves of bread in the past two years. We usually buy flour, sugar, salt, soda, baking powder, vinegar--things we can't make here. Once in a while we buy lunch meat or weiners. A body just gets hungry for that sort of thing. We also buy hamburger buns some. Hamburgers just taste better on a bun."
Mr. Campbell cuts on their farm all the wood used for fuel in cooking, canning and heating, and carefully stacks it so it will shed water.
We headed back to the kitchen to help prepare the noon meal, the biggest of the day. On the way back, Kathy Hawk and Kyra drew one of the many buckets of water needed before the meal was over.
Mrs. Campbell uses a bread starter to make most of her bread. She makes bread dough once a week, usually on Saturday, bakes what she needs for that day and refrigerates the rest of the dough. This way she can bake fresh bread every day. The everlasting starter she uses was made with hops and has been in her husband's family for over a hundred years.
She then showed us how she formed her rolls. She rolls out the dough to about a half inch thickness, cuts them with a round cookie cutter, dips them in melted butter, folds them in half and sets them in a pan to rise. This way there is butter inside and out.
Next in order was to mix up a crust for a peach cobbler. She kneads her crust slightly so it will roll out easier. The canned peaches retained the lovely golden color of the summer before and looked good enough to eat right then.
We added flour for thickening and sugar to taste. Then we put the crust over the pan, poured in the peaches and lapped the extra crust over the top.
We put it in the oven hoping it would be done and cool enough for dinner. We had all been curious about the ball bat in the kitchen until we found out that the door spring on the oven was broken!
Now we were ready to peel potatoes and carrots to cook around the roast in the boiling broth.
By now the rolls were light and had risen beautifully over the hot water on the stove. It was time to put them in the oven to bake. We could hardly wait for them to finish so we could sample the homemade butter and preserves. The Campbells have fresh milk and butter from their cow, often making cottage cheese and yellow cheese when the cow isn't dry. They try to freeze enough butter to last through the "dry" spell, but sometimes have to buy margarine to supplement the "cow butter."
It took just a little while for her to mix up her noodle dough because she has made them so often. After she got it rolled out, her hand became a blur as she cut perfect noodle strips with a case knife.
Kyra wasn't nearly so fast or as accurate when she tried to cut the noodles
we teased her about her ragged noodles. But cut straight or ragged, we put them in the boiling beef broth. Soon the aroma of cooking noodles mingled with the scent of baking bread.
Mrs. Campbell opened a jar of green beans and hominy. We seasoned the beans with salt, pepper and bacon drippings and put them both on the stove to heat.
The smell of baking bread, plus the simmering roast, vegetables and noodles was almost more than we could stand. Our mouths watered and our stomachs growled. Having raised a family herself, Mrs. Campbell understood our dilemna, so she brewed up a special pre-dinner treat of sweetened sassafras tea which took the edge off of our hunger. Temporarily appeased, we were able to take out of the oven the golden brown peach cobbler with the juice bubbling through the crust, without burning our fingers trying to taste it!
As noon approached, Mrs. Campbell began dishing up all the food while Kyra and Kathy set the table. The smells were heavenly. The roast was a perfect brown, so tender it seemed to melt on the platter surrounded by homegrown potatoes and carrots. The evenly browned rolls each glistened with a dab of fresh butter melting on top. The green beans and fluffy white hominy were steaming beside the noodles, all begging to be eaten. The crusty brown cobbler cooling on the seldom used electric range seemed the perfect dessert for our feast.
The dinner was extra special to Kathy who had never tasted homemade noodles or hominy. Not sure she would like the hominy, she cautiously sampled one kernel.
Kyra's favorite dish was the noodles. Her pleasure was so evident her grandmother, Ellen Gibson, paused to watch her. We all agreed it beat the school cafeteria food all to pieces!
At the end of every meal comes the task of washing dishes. Mrs. Campbell saves time by putting a dish pan of water on the stove to heat while we were eating.
Dinner was delicious and nourishing. Mrs. Campbell nevertheless had to work almost daily year round preparing the food for the meal. Gardening starting in early spring and continuing until frost, berry and fruit picking in spring and summer, canning late spring and all summer, butchering and curing fall and winter, and the actual meal preparation three times daily year round all probably take three fourths of her time.
Mrs. Campbell is an old pro at cooking. She made her first cake when she was four for her father's birthday. However, she did admit all she did was stir! Growing up in a family of fourteen kids, she is used to cooking for a lot of people. To give us an idea of the food required for her family, she told us, "We used to use eleven cups of milk for biscuits for breakfast--that's a lot of biscuits!"
We thought the meal was fantastic, but were even more surprised when her daughter told us, "We eat like that every day."
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.